There had only been 65 covers at the first event. Last night it more than doubled to 150, with 4 long rows of trestle tables stretching the length of the nave, the trademark banners hanging from the pillars and the candles flickering between the arches.
In contrast to the last occasion when we had chosen our own places, we were seated according to a table plan. While this may have ensured that latecoming groups were seated at the same table, it did mean that we were unable to sit with a friend who had booked separately and had been allocated a place at another table. Castellanos would do well to advise diners of this in the future.
The evening kicked off with a warm welcome from Mike Cardwell, a grace said by Jack House, vicar of the parish and an elucidation of the menu by Vincent Castellano himself.
Then it was down to the main event - the food!
First an appetiser - a crisp bruschetta topped with aubergine, cauliflower, plum tomato and buffalo mozarella drizzled with a vivid salsa verde.
I'm a big fan of tapas, mezze and the like and, having been delighted by the All Things Pig platter, I was looking forward to the antipasti board. There were silky smooth anchovies, peppery salami, fragrant mortadella and juicy meatballs, set off by a heap of pickled gherkins and a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This time Vincent had sourced his bread more locally, from Mark's Bread, just round the corner on North Street.
The starter (I thought we already had!) was a single mushroom ravioli drenched in a creamy dolcelatte sauce and sprinked with dried mushrooms and parsley.
There followed a 30 minute interlude when we were entertained by two soprano opera singers who sang a selection of arias by Puccini, Verdi and a composer by the name of Tosti. They both sang beautifully but I was particularly impressed by the younger woman, who added to the entertainment with her gestures and facial expressions. It turned out that she's the daughter of a couple of Gaswork singers. It really is a small world.
The middle course was a lemon granita made from Sicilian lemons - an mouth puckering palate cleanser to prepare us for the main course which was ...
seared cod (we heard it sizzling during the operatic interlude) on a caponata with a barolo wine sauce topped with a slice of crispy pancetta. The cod was soft and flaky, no mean feat for 150 covers, but I wasn't entirely convinced by its paring with a cold caponata. It took a while for us to be served but it didn't matter. Everyone was relaxed and happy. No one was in a hurry to go home.
At least not until they'd had desert, panncotta with a frangelico and hazelnut icecream, a berry compote and a crunchy biscotti.
The raffle was drawn during desert. We won 5th prize, a Lahloo gift bag containing a packet of earl grey tea and a tin of heart shaped shortbread biscuits. It was my daughter's preferred prize so it was only right that she should have it!
The end of another evening at the St Aldhelm's pop up restaurant. I can't wait until All things Moroccan in the autumn.
For another reveiw of the event pop over to Canapes, Cupcakes and Cocktails, whose author was seated next to me last night.